Many people’s favourite wine dinner of the year recently took place at Deckers, Blackbeard’s Guess the Grape. This year, Blackbeard’s Trevor Arsenault was in charge, confusing diners most wickedly with his secret wine choices for the evening.
You cannot help but enjoy a gold old wine dinner: like-minded individuals banding together to enjoy the experts’ selections of wines with food carefully prepared to pair perfectly with the wines.
Blackbeard’s Guess the Grape annual affair likes to throw a little competition into the mix, giving diners the chance to guess not only the grape, but also the country, location and vintage of each wine during the course of the meal. The ultimate winner enjoys a bottle of each wine drunk, so serious incentive was on offer to take part.
Jodie Petts is Blackbeard’s wine sales manager and is well-known in the wine community as an expert in the field. Jodie usually organises the guess the grape dinner; however, this time, her trusty side-kick Trevor took the helm to allow Jodie the chance to guess as well. No pressure on the rest of us, then, not only to guess the grape but to beat the expert, to boot!
The ubiquitous glass of bubbly immediately took centre stage for diners as they made their way to table. Definitely not a Champagne as there were not a great deal of toasty aromas on the nose, yet not a crisp Prosecco. Maybe a Cava? Possibly a sparkling wine from France? Trevor revealed this to be a Cremant de Loire, a De Chanceny Cremant brut made with Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc grapes. Jodie immediately showed us her card that revealed her grape guess was correct, citing the fine bubbles, no oak and distinct appley nose as a give-away. Thankfully this was just a little teaser before the real games began.
Next up to work alongside Deckers’ fresh and succulent cedar smoked scallops was a really tricky little number, definitely unoaked, almost salty and savoury, hinting at a proximity to the sea, perhaps? Wracking my brains for the name of a similar wine I had drunk with Jodie, I finally remembered a lovely crisp Albariño we had enjoyed during a previous wine lunch, so plumped for that grape, with Spain as the location and 2008 as the vintage, confident in my choice.
Alas, just about the only aspect of the wine I had guessed correctly aside from the vintage was that it was unoaked. It was in fact L’Ecole 41, Semillon from Columbia Valley, Washington State 2008 (CI$19.49). Jodie had guessed the wine as an Albariño as well, and after this wine selection was revealed Jodie was astounded at the lightness of the L’Ecole 41 Semillon.
“It is unoaked and indeed tastes slightly salty as if it would come from a cool coastal area. Washington State is a seven hour drive from the sea, but maybe the strong soil minerals gives it this characteristic. I am completely surprised by the style. Fantastic choice, Trevor!” she says.
A clear cut Chardonnay then made its way into the competition, the buttery vanilla notes unmistakable and an excellent pairing with Deckers’ award-winning cold banana soup with a dash of Gosling Rum. The tropical fruitiness of the wine suggested new world rather than its Burgundy cousin, yet guessing the right part of the new world was a task in itself. Eventually going with California, I found out that I was not far south enough, with Trevor revealing this wine to be a 2008 Luca Chardonnay from the Uco Valley, Argentina (CI$24.99). Jodie guessed this to be a Chardonnay but selected Chile as the country of origin.
“The Luca Chardonnay is a wonderful expression of the grape, lots of tropical fruit flavours with a hint of elegant oak for structure and not at all over powering,” she confirms.
A lovely light to medium bodied red then accompanied the pan-fried hog fish served on Caribbean lobster risotto topped with fennel slaw. As an aside, if you haven’t tried hog fish you should – an interesting delicate yet meaty fish that was made even greater with the perfectly cooked lobster risotto. The wine’s sour cherries and barnyard notes made this a clear cut Pinot Noir, yet its fruit was quite pronounced so again, a new world wine rather than the more austere Pinot Noir wines from Burgundy. Its location proved to be from Cooper Mountain, from Oregon’s Willamette Valley (CI$24.99). This 2008 wine is made from vineyards that are both organic and bio-dynamic and the result is a really special expression of the grape. Jodie picked the grape out with no problem but she was dead set that it was from Burgundy. “It’s dry and earthy, subtle fruit and the barnyard hints on the nose is dead giveaway Burgundy. I was surprised again that this was from the new world, and I have to say what a great job Copper Mountain do with their Pinot Noir, to create something so close to the original Burgundy authenticity,” she says.
A typical Italian treat of slow braised veal shanks paired with a parsnip puree and sautéed root vegetables then graced diners’ place settings which should have been a give-away at least as to the location of this wine. However, the deep red, luscious and well-balanced wine had diners scratching their heads, perhaps our difficulty in deciphering the wines rising proportionally with the volume of wine consumed.
Cabernet Sauvignon? No. Bordeaux blend? No, blends were not permitted to ease the plight of the poor guessers. Maybe a Malbec from Argentina? We eventually went with the latter, only to be proved totally wrong yet again by Trevor. This time we were enjoying a 2007 Sessantani Primitivo from Puglia, Italy (CI$27.99) (and no doubt will be again soon, now that we knew the wine!). Jodie guessed this dead on: “It taste like a Zinfandel but with less vanilla from American oak, for me there was no other choice for this grape!” she confirms.
Deckers’ mascarpone and vanilla cream with fresh strawberries proved to be an excellent choice to pair with the fragrant sparkling dessert wine. The dessert was cool, light and easy after such a rich meal. This refreshing dessert wine was another conundrum, not too sweet and lightly chilled. Diners seem to like the idea of an ice wine from Canada which sounded like a sensible choice to us. The wine was in fact a 2009 Batasiolo Moscato de Asti, from Boscareto Vineyard, Piedmonte, Italy CI$18.49). Moscato de Asti is a wonderful, light way to finish a long dinner says Jodie.
In hindsight it may have been better to not enjoy the wines quite so much, our deciphering abilities definitely heading downwards as the dinner progressed, but, really, where would the fun have been in that?
Trevor did a great job with this blind tasting and Jodie can’t wait until next year to try to guess all over again with selections from Lee Quessy the new sales rep for Cayman distributors.
Aimee McKie won the tasting prize this year, receiving a bottle of each wine tasted, however this was not due to her tasting ability but the fact that it was her birthday!